Artists Reach Out: Kathleen Kelley - Gibney
Week of July 7, 2020
Making space for

Artists Reach Out: Kathleen Kelley

Photo of Kathleen Kelley with a black background and blue shirt.


Senior Curatorial Director Eva Yaa Asantewaa dreamed this series of interviews, Artists Reach Out: reflections in a time of isolation, out of grief for her work both as a documenting arts writer and curator of live performance.

“In this time of social distancing, we are called to responsibly do all we can to safeguard ourselves and our neighbors. It is, literally, a matter of life and death.

But there’s no distancing around what we still can share with one another—our experiences, thoughts, wisdom, humor, hearts and spirit. In some ways, there are more opportunities to do so as we pull back from everyday busyness out in the world and have time to honor the call of our inner lives.

So, let me introduce you to some artists I find interesting. I’m glad they’re part of our beautiful community, and I’m eager to engage with them again (or for the first time) in years to come.” – Eva Yaa Asantewaa, Senior Curatorial Director

This interview features Kathleen Kelley, Gibney Work Up 5.1 artist with her company, Proteo Media + Performance.

Kathleen Kelley is an Associate Professor of Dance and Technology at Montclair State University and the Artistic Director of the intermedia production company Proteo Media + Performance. Her body of creative work pushes against a modernist model of authorship and instead explores collaboration, mutual support structures, and feminist modes of community. She is interested in the effects of technological enmeshment on the body, which leads her to create dance films, interactive installations, and live performance events that incorporate digital media. She is a 2019 Gibney Work Up resident artist, a Chez Bushwick Artist in Residence in 2018, and a 2015-2016 LEIMAY Fellow. Her recent video work includes cinematography for the dance film “Future Becomes Past”, an official selection of over 12 film festivals; choreography for Maya Beiser’s music video “Air” that premiered on NPR’s First Look; and direction and cinematography for “Territory” a short poetry/dance hybrid film that was published in the TriQuarterly literary journal. Her recent performance work includes the premiere of “Frozen Baby” at the Work Up 5.1 series at Gibney Dance, “Separate Oceans”, an evening-length premiere at Theaterlab NYC, the interactive installation “Digitized Figures” at Gowanus Loft, and showcase performances in Movement Research at the Judson, the SOAK Festival, the CURRENT SESSIONS, Nimbus OFFLINE choreography series, and HATCH series amongst others. She serves on the Editorial Board of the journal “Dance Education in Process”, and mentors fellow artists in writing, production, and film development. She has a BFA in Dance and a BA in Psychology from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro and an MFA in Dance from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Photo by Steven Weiss

Do you have a current or planned project whose progress is affected by the pandemic?

I was lucky enough to finish directing the Spring Dance show at Montclair State, which wrapped up three days before the University shut down. After that show, I was planning on turning my focus to the development of my next evening-length show, imminenthumans. I have no idea when I can keep working on it, because it is very much about the people and personalities in the room. I also recently wrapped up production on music videos for the performance artist José María, and that release is delayed until July. I have a couple other collaborative projects that were getting started, and I just really hope that they can continue!

The biggest shift is actually a positive. I have been dreaming about starting a performance festival that was curated around concepts of the “future” and whatever that means. After the pandemic started, my company (Proteo Media) decided to move this festival idea online and we’ll open Post/Future Performance Festival June 1st with 28 artists sharing work in incredible ways. Planning it has been the one thing giving me hope these days.

Briefly, tell me about how you got involved in the arts and in your particular practice.

I started in ballet as a young kid and have had dance as a central focus in my life since then. My current practice brings together bodies, video, and other technology, but it all comes from this deeply-ingrained dance perspective. I started working with dance film in grad school at the University of Illinois and took a transformative workshop with Alla Kovgan that really shifted how I thought about it. And now, my undergrad students are very influential in how I think about how technology impacts our emotional experiences.

In a more specific way, what are you practicing? And what are you envisioning?

In general, my practice has been shifting towards collaboration as its primary motor. I am practicing working with mutual support structures and making things happen together. And specifically right now, I am practicing leash etiquette with my parent’s dog Sarah who is my newest best friend. She is my daily walking partner and we are working together to build our connective relationship. I’m not sure what I’m envisioning as the “after” right now, but I’m trying to lean into (and remind myself) of my belief in dailiness.

Photo by Mitsuko Verdery

How does your practice and your visioning align with what you most care about?

I care about people, relationships and communities, but in my own introverted way. I’m not the big group kind of person–I want to build deep, weird, creative supportive bonds with other artists and make things happen together. That is my mission right now: I want to make beautiful things with beautiful people for the rest of my life.

How does your practice function within the world we have now?

Lots of zooms and calls and emails and walks. Building this online festival has involved one-on-one conversations with amazing people and asking them: “What are you dreaming about now? And what are questions that you had before this that are coming to a head now? It’s been very inspiring. I am lucky that I had already been working pretty digitally so I can just dig into that a bit more.

Briefly share one self-care tip that has special meaning to you now.

I’m working on asking others (and myself) “what are you feeling now?” instead of “how are you doing?” or “how are you feeling?”. It is helping me stay present in the changing experiences of each moment.


To read all of Eva Yaa Asantewaa’s Artists Reach Out interviews, visit


Top photo by LWT.